Ken & Visakha Kawasaki [info icon]
Jataka Tales of the Buddha, retold by Ken & Visakha Kawasaki

The Jataka, one of the books in the Khuddaka Nikaya, contains 550 stories the Buddha told of his previous lifetimes as an aspiring Bodhisatta. The Jataka stories are classic Buddhist morality tales, often witty, and filled with a host of colorful characters: clever monkeys, wise elephants, brave princes, wicked ogres, and the occasional benign tree spirit. Although they have sometimes been compared to the West's Grimms' fairy tales, they are not simply amusing diversions from "serious" Dhamma literature. Unlike Grimms', whose moral lessons are often ambiguous and occasionally even downright sinister, the Jataka tales are replete with important lessons woven from the unmistakable threads of heightened virtue and liberating wisdom, twin hallmarks of the Buddha's legacy of transcendent freedom.

In this series the authors have breathed new life into Cowell's classic compilation[1] of 19th c. translations of the Jataka by adapting them into lively English for a contemporary audience. The clarity of the retellings, coupled with the authors' selection of the stories themselves, makes this series a valuable introduction to this important body of Theravada canonical literature. These retellings will appeal not only to experienced students of Buddhism, but also to parents looking for engaging stories of upright morality to share with an inquisitive young child.

Jataka Tales of the Buddha: Part I, retold by Ken & Visakha Kawasaki (1995; 11pp./32KB)
Four Jataka Tales: Apannaka Jataka (Crossing the Wilderness; Jat 1), Serivavanija Jataka (The Traders of Seriva; Jat 3), Matakabhatta Jataka (The Goat that Laughed and Wept; Jat 18), and Kuhaka Jataka (The Straw Worth More Than Gold; Jat 89).
Jataka Tales of the Buddha: Part II, retold by Ken & Visakha Kawasaki (1998; 12pp./35KB)
Three Jataka tales: Illisa Jataka (The Miserly Treasurer; Jat 78), Kalakanni Jataka (What's in a name?; Jat 83), and Mahasara Jataka (The Queen's Necklace; Jat 92).
Jataka Tales of the Buddha: Part III, retold by Ken & Visakha Kawasaki (1998; 11pp./34KB)
Four Jataka tales: Kumbha Jataka (The Fifth Precept; Jat 512), Silanisamsa Jataka (A Good Friend; Jat 190), Duddubha Jataka (The Sound the Hare Heard; Jat 322), and Mahakapi Jataka (The Great Monkey King; Jat 407).
Jataka Tales of the Buddha: Part IV, retold by Ken & Visakha Kawasaki (2005; 13pp./40KB) [PDF icon]
Three Jataka tales: Mahasupina Jataka (The Sixteen Dreams; Jat 77), Manicora Jataka (The Virtuous Wife; Jat 194), and Dabbhapuppha Jataka (The Jackal's Judgment; Jat 400).
Jataka Tales of the Buddha: Part V, retold by Ken & Visakha Kawasaki (2005; 10pp./30KB) [PDF icon]
Four Jataka tales: Nalapana Jataka (The Case of the Hollow Canes; Jat 20), Vattaka Jataka (The Baby Quail; Jat 35), Pañcavudha Jataka (Prince Five-weapons; Jat 55), and Alinacitta Jataka (The Elephant Who Saved a Kingdom; Jat 156).


The Jataka, or Stories of the Buddha's Former Births (Translated from the Pali by Various Hands), six volumes, E.B. Cowell ed. (Delhi: Motilala Banarsidass, 2001). First published in 1895 by Cambridge University Press.